The Truths of the Buddhadharma Are Included in the Six Guiding Principles
Today is the last day of the year designated by the cyclical characters jia (the first of the Heavenly Stems) and zi (the first of the Earthly Branches). Tomorrow is the beginning of the year designated by the characters yi(the second of the Heavenly Stems) and chou (the second of the Earthly Branches). Now is the time for us to change our old habits. In the past, due to bad habits, there were very many ways in which what we did was not in accord with the Dharma. Starting from tomorrow, we should make new resolutions and become new people. If we are never willing to "awaken to what is right today and what was wrong yesterday," then we will not make progress in our cultivation and will simply be wasting our time.
All of you, don't conceal your shortcomings and promote your long points. There is a saying, "When you see worthies, wish to be like them." We should try to emulate Zeng Zi and learn his style. It is recorded in The Analects: Zeng Zi said, "I daily examine myself on three points. In carrying out plans for others, have I been disloyal? In interacting with friends, have I been untrustworthy? Have I failed to go over what I was taught?" What Zeng Zi said was, "Every day I have to take stock of myself concerning three matters. In taking care of things, have I loyally and truly done the best job I could? In my relations with my friends, were there some ways in which I violated their trust? Did I go over and review the lessons which I studied each day?" We can use this quotation as a mirror for ourselves.
The Three Character Classic states this very clearly. It says: "People at their origin have natures of fundamental goodness, to which their natures are close; but habits make them distant. If they are not taught, then their natures shift." The basic natures of children, when they are first born, are good and wholesome. Because their original natures are close to goodness, it says "to which their natures are close." Gradually, as they grow up, they are fashioned and influenced by their environment and become stained by habits. A saying describing this goes: "Something stained blue becomes blue; something stained yellow becomes yellow." At that point, their natural temperaments bit by bit depart from goodness. During that period, if you cannot teach them well and reform their old bad habits, so they returnto their nature of goodness, their natural temperaments will shift and change.
When you are young, your parents and elders come and instruct you so you correct your faults and bad habits. However, once you are an adult, no one comes to set you straight. If you wish to change yourself for the better, you have to make the corrections yourself. For that reason, today's topic is "Changing Old Habits and Making New Resolutions."
We need to recognize our goals clearly. How should we act as people? How can we become genuine disciples of the Buddha? What is the new direction we will take? What are our new resolves? We need to clarify these questions. Otherwise, there will be no way to change our old habits or make new resolutions. All of you should pay attention to this point!
Taken as a whole, this problem is very simple. What is required is actually putting in the work oneself. "Not doing any evil, and offering up all good conduct" will suffice. If everyone were to go in that direction, then everyone would very naturally achieve his or her objective in being a person.
Our new direction is to eradicate our habits of jealousy, obstruction of others, arrogance, conceit and so forth completely, and not allow them to operate. How can we eradicate those four improper attitudes of mind? We can do it by counteracting them using the Four Unlimited Minds of kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and renunciation. If you are kind hearted, then you will not be jealous. If you are compassionate, you will not harbor a wish to obstruct others. If your attitude is one of sympathetic joy, you will not be arrogant. With a mind of renunciation, you will not be conceited. Look into this, all of you. Does this make sense or not?
Our new resolutions are: not to fight, not to be greedy, not to seek, not to be selfish, not to pursue self-benefit, and not to lie. Actually, these are the old guiding principles of the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Even though you have heard them very many times, you have not truly put them into practice. So long as you have not yet actually practiced them, they are new. After you have put them into practice, they will no longer be new. Today I am going to strum the same old tune, and talk about the meaning of the Six Great Principles, and I hope all of you will pay attention!
Why do we have afflictions? Why do we have worries? Our fighting, greed, seeking, selfishness, pursuit of self-benefit and lying are to blame. They control our bodies and minds so we are not free or at ease. If we can subdue them, then we will not be upside down, and will reach the state of freedom from afflictions and troubles, worries and cares. At all times we will achieve contemplation at ease. Why do we not achieve contemplation, and why are we not free and at ease? To put it in a nutshell, it is because we are turned by those six kinds of states.
When I was a little boy, I liked fight with people, to redress injustices. If something had been done unfairly, if I found out about it, I would definitely stand up and go to set things right. I was also greedy. What was I greedy for? I was greedy for things to eat. (All children have this problem.) When there was something good to eat, if I did not get a share, I was sure to start fighting until I got it.
After I reached the age of twelve, I began to be introspective about my character, wondering why I was so obstinate. When I had investigated to the point of understanding, then I changed my errors and started anew. I began in my home to bow to my father and mother, to express that I was sorry that in the past I had hurt my parents in many ways. From that time onwards, I did not fight anymore, I was not greedy, I did not seek, I was not selfish, and I did not pursue self-benefit. I felt these principles were very practical and, having employed them up until this day, I intend to adhere to them for my entire life without changing.
Later on, besides bowing to my parents, I bowed to heaven, earth, the ruler, my relatives, and my teachers. In addition, I bowed to the great sages on earth, the great worthies, the greatly good people and greatly filial people. I also bowed to greatly evil people. Why was that? It was to cause them to change their evil ways and go towards the good. Each day, regardless of the wind or rain, I bowed in the courtyard more than eight hundred times, which took two hours.
Last time I went to Gold Buddha Monastery in Canada, I told the two monks who did three steps one bow (Dharma Masters Heng Sure and Heng Chau): "The two of you should try it. If you do not fight, are not greedy, do not seek, are not selfish, and not pursue self-benefit, that is the wonderful within the wonderful. There is no Dharma more wonderful than that. Furthermore, if you can actually put those Six Great Principles into practice, what could surpass that Dharma?" All of you, work hard at putting the Six Great Principles into practice, and then you will make progress in your cultivation. Otherwise, it is all equivalent to empty talk. Painting a cake will not cure hunger, nor will boiling sand result in rice.
Everyone should keep in mind the Six Great Principles of the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas at all times, and not forget them. For that reason, I renounce everything and give everything away to others, and am not always telling people to give to me. Of course, if people do give, I do not refuse. However, I do my best to give, and I do a little as I have the chance. Whatever I am able to do, I do that much; but I do not force things when they are beyond my means.
All of you, think it over. If you can act like that, what would you still have to worry about? What would you still be unable to put down? If you truly apply those Six Great Principles in practice, then you really understand the Buddhadharma. To state this another way, the truths of the Buddhadharma are included in these Six Great Principles.
Not fighting is just not breaking the precept against killing. Why do people want to kill? It is because they want to fight. You fight and I contend, resulting in actions of murder and arson. If you neither fight nor kill, then you are holding the precept against killing.
Not being greedy is just not breaking the precept against stealing.
Why do people want to steal? It is because of greed. They are greedy to have others' possessions. If you are not greedy, then you are maintaining the precept against stealing.
Not seeking is just not breaking the precept against lust. Men pursuing women is seeking, and women pursuing men is seeking too. When they do not obtain what they seek, their spirits are upside down, to the point that they still seek in their dreams, and their bodies and minds are not at peace.
Not being selfish is just not breaking the precept against lying. Why do people want to lie? It is in order to preserve their benefits. That is why they are always deceiving people and speaking falsely. If you are not selfish, then under all circumstances you can speak the truth, and will not engage in deceit or trickery.
Not pursuing self-benefit is just not breaking the precept against taking intoxicants. People who take intoxicants feel that the intoxicant will improve their circulation, benefit their bodies, and certainly make them well. When they take the intoxicant, they feel giddy and elated and that they have become immortals. People who take intoxicants have such false thoughts, and the culprit is the pursuit of self-benefit.
Not lying is already included in the five items enumerated above, but in order to rouse everybody's vigilance and reinforce the bad points of lying, an additional item has been added as a warning.
Right now in Canada in the city of Vancouver at Gold Buddha Monastery, the Six Great Principles are constantly being lectured. They are taught to the elderly, to the middle aged, and to the young , so that people will know the essentials of the Buddhadharma. If you are truly able not to fight, not to be greedy, not to seek, not to be selfish, not to pursue self-benefit, and not to lie, then society will definitely be stable, and households are sure to prosper.
If people in the world could strictly uphold the five precepts and not kill, not steal, not engage in lust, not lie, and not take intoxicants, then they would have no afflictions or worries. That is why I say that the Six Great Principles are the most wonderful Dharma door. You could also say they are "The unsurpassed, deep, profound, subtle and wonderful Dharma which is difficult to encounter in hundreds of thousands of eons. I now see, hear, receive it and uphold it, and I vow to understand the Tathagata's true meaning."
I will say one thing more. To be a Buddhist, one must at the very least strictly hold the five great fundamental precepts and genuinely put them into practice. Only then can one be happy and at ease. If you are unable to maintain these five types of precepts, then it will be even harder to maintain the two hundred and fifty Bhikshu precepts, or the three hundred and forty-eight precepts of a Bhikshuni. Therefore, our fundamental Teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha, when he was about to enter nirvana in the Twin Trees Forest, told the Venerable Ananda: "Take the precepts as your Teacher." From this we can tell how important the precepts are!